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Paddlers in the Texas River Marathon like the competition and love the river

May 7, 2011 at 12:07 a.m.

John Dupont loads his boat onto the top of his car after his team, the "Cowboys", came in 4th in the Texas Water Safari Preliminary race Saturday at Riverside Park.  Eighty-seven teams paddled the 39 miles from Cuero to Victoria this year, competing for starting positions in the upcoming three-day Water Safari.  Dupont has been participating in the race since 1987.

Gaston Jones, of Austin, sipped a beer and looked back at the Guadalupe River he and his teammates spent the morning paddling down.

He was dripping wet and a furious shake of his brown head sent water droplets everywhere.

"It's tough, it's a lot of work, but it's a great race," Jones said.

The annual Texas River Marathon went off without a hitch on Saturday with 87 teams and 113 people competing in the event.

The marathon is a paddling race down more than 39 miles of the Guadalupe River, starting in Cuero and ending in Victoria. This is only the beginning though.

The Texas River Marathon acts as the preliminary race for next month's 43rd annual Texas Water Safari, a paddling race that stretches more than 260 miles from San Marcos to Seadrift and is billed as the toughest river race in the world.

"We call it the toughest paddling race in the world, and no one has ever argued with us on that," Jerry Cochran, race director for the marathon, said.

The competitors in Saturday's race will have determined their starting positions for the water safari in June.

Daniel Cruz started racing as a 15-year-old in Belize because it looked exciting, he said. He and his teammates came in second.

Pulling a slender boat from the river, Cruz and his teammates were dripping wet and grinning proudly as they carried their slender canoe from the banks of the river in Riverside Park.

"I love it. I love paddling this river," Cruz said.

Jones and his teammates came in first in the Texas River Marathon, but winning isn't what the race is about.

Jones has been competing in the Texas Water Safari since 2000. He does it because he loves the physical challenge of making it down the river, and he loves the river itself.

"I do it just to get to go down the river. It really pushes me physically, and it's so beautiful," Jones said.



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